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Convertibles: The Real Display Models
August 11, 2010

Thanks to an unfortunate accident and a fortunate car rental, I was driving around in a convertible for half the summer.  With warm days ahead, the timing couldn’t have been better.  Living in the Midwest, however, driving a convertible is akin to being on stage near 42nd Street and Seventh Avenue.  In places like Miami, LA, and Las Vegas, convertibles are as common as bikinis and trendy restaurants.  In the suburban Midwest, however, convertibles are as common as… bikinis and trendy restaurants.  I guess there are several things lacking in the heartland.

Sure, there are the few brave souls in the area who ponied up and bought a topless car in a climate where it must be stored 13 months of the year.  These people are known only through association to their rebellious vehicles.

“I saw Bill driving around yesterday.”

“Sorry, don’t know him.”

“Yes you do – Bill.  Carly’s dad.”

“Doesn’t ring a bell.”

“Y’know, the guy with the Mustang convertible.”

“Ohhh, ‘Converti-Bill!’ Why didn’t you say so?  I saw him last week with Miata Mike.”

And so it goes.

Around here, it’s rare to see a convertible and when one does roll down the street, the driver is treated like a blip on a petri dish that everyone must see.  That feeling of celebrity doesn’t mesh well with my attempts at normalcy.  I’m not exactly one to seek out the limelight.  In fact, if the lights start turning any shade of green, I usually duck out the back.

Still, there’s something invigorating about driving and letting the air rush through one’s male pattern baldness.  The scenery looks better.  The air smells fresher.  The music sounds better.  Ah yes, the music.  That’s where a convertible driver is truly on display.  What used to be an intimate experience becomes “DJ Dad” for all of the intersection to judge.  

When you’re a dad in your mid-30s, it’s a no win situation.  True story: with the top down and feeling good about myself, I rolled up to a red light decked out in a button down shirt and sensible pants while “Bad to the Bone” pumped out of my speakers.  Before the light could turn green, I had become a cliché on four wheels that even the worst movies wouldn’t use, except for maybe the ones with Jim Belushi.

Despite the vast musical choices, my attempts at looking cool, or at least lukewarm, were sad at best.  Hip hop? I’m trying too hard.  Rap? Please.  “Lite” music? I’m lame.  Since it’s not easy to find a nice 30-minute Dave Mathews Band acoustical jam during the morning rush hour, I often tuned in to sports talk radio and kept the sound low so I could wallow in my midlife days without alerting the public.

Driving a convertible was a fun experience, and the month and a half went by fast with the top down and the summer in front of my wind burned face.  Still, it was nice to settle back into the sedan, pop in an eclectic mix of everything from Taylor Swift to Ray Charles and belt out the tunes in the comfort of my closed up cabin on wheels.  I guess I prefer back stage to center stage.